17th December 2020 – 28th November 2025

Maudsley Hospital

HOLD is a public artwork by artist Sarah Carpenter, installed in the Maudsley Hospital reception area. Commissioned by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to celebrate SLaM nurses past and present, the artwork has been funded by the Maudsley Charity.

Open only to staff and patients of the hospital until COVID restrictions are lifted


Hold and care for babies
Hold hands and comfort people in pain and at the end of life
Hold patients who are distressed/angry using approved techniques Hold up a mirror to help people recognise their behaviour patterns
Hold safe space for people to talk in therapy sessions
Hold others to account
Hold people in their mind and check on progress
Hold the line with people when they are pushing boundaries
Hold meetings to co-ordinate care and safeguard vulnerable people Hold the fort – when other staff have gone home for the night / weekend

Provide support for people in crisis to hold-on…

2020 is Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial year, designated by World Health Organisation as the first ever global Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Nurses are the largest section of the NHS workforce. Nurses are highly skilled, multi-faceted professionals from a host of backgrounds that represent our diverse communities. 2020 is our time to reflect on these skills, the commitment and expert clinical care they bring, and the impact they make on the services we provide. This year is also an opportunity to say thank you; to showcase nurse’s diverse talents and expertise; and to promote mental health nursing as a career with a great deal to offer.

How was the artwork made?

To create an artwork that might reflect on such a diverse profession, artist Sarah Carpenter began researching and developing the work by meeting with nurses from across the trust to find out about their roles, why they got into nursing and how they perceive nursing. From these meetings, the themes of the artwork were generated. Sarah then met with the archivist at Bethlem Museum of the Mind to explore the history of nursing at the Maudsley. Finally, Sarah was struck by the way all the nurses she had been speaking with deflected any interest in themselves and their wellbeing back to focusing on patients care. As a reciprocal gesture, Sarah a past patient at the Maudsley Hospital herself, worked with patients at River House to cast their hands in plaster, using various holding gestures as a way to give back and say, ‘we can hold you too’.

Sarah chose objects which relate to things we need as humans to survive – water (represented by a mug), shelter / sleep (represented by a sheet), air (represented by a mask), and which nurses identified they rely on when providing care. Nurses work 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and 365 days per year, this is represented by the nurse’s watch. The objects are held in the patient’s hand casts and are also showcased as photos over the fireplace.

Plaster was used for casting the hands as it is a material traditionally used to aid repair and recovery in hospitals. It is a raw material appropriate for this project as nurse’s deal with raw emotions, it’s also timeless which chimes with the way nurses work across the life span and around the clock.

The hand casts are repeated and colourless highlighting the similarities of humankind stripped back and celebrating the way SLaM nurses are colour-blind in providing equal access to care for everyone.

Thank you to Mary Yates, Nurse Consultant for her poem HOLD. And thank you to Chris, Craig and Dorian for casting their hands.

To coincide with the launch of HOLD, Mary Yates invited a diverse group of SLaM nursing staff to reflect on their nursing roles and journeys into the profession, you can read them here.

And to hear more about artist Sarah Carpenter’s process in making HOLD and about her journey as an artist, follow this link to read her interview with the Maudsley Charity.

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